Halloween – To Celebrate Or Not Celebrate?

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. ( 1 Cor 13:11)

There are multiple beliefs about the origin of Halloween.  This article sets forth my reasonable and useful understanding of the origin of Halloween and how it should be viewed today.

Halloween is the first of three feasts established by the Catholic Church that occur in sequence: Halloween (October 31), All Saints Day (November 1), All Souls Day (November 2).

In short, Halloween is also known as All Hallowed Eve or Hallowed Evening. Hallowed means holy or set apart (Exodus 20:11; Matthew 6:9). In terms of timing All Hallowed Eve immediately precedes All Saints Day similar to Christmas Eve that immediately precedes Christmas or Christmas Day.  and it is the eve of All Saints Day similar in concept to Christmas Eve being the eve of Christmas.  Both Halloween and All Saints Day are done to honor all saints (known and unknown whether canonized or not).   Therefore, all Saints Day and All Souls Day are days for remembering Christians who have died.  In essence, Halloween is a Christian Celebration that has been much too much secularized.

To understand the difference between All Saints Day and All Souls Day, one must understand that Catholic doctrine holds that some of the saved believers go immediately to Heaven and others go to a place called Purgatory where sufficient purification takes place that was not sufficiently achieved before death.  Catholics hold that one’s destination is determined by one’s degree of faithfulness while alive. The Catholic Answers Tract listed in the reference section below says: “Sanctification involves suffering (Rom. 5:3-5), and purgatory is the final stage of sanctification that some of us need to undergo before we enter heaven”.

So then All Saints Day is for those saved believers who have gone on to Heaven.  All Souls Day is for all saved believers whether in Heaven or purgatory according to Catholic Doctrine.

Now we should understand that some Protestant derivatives from the Catholic Church also recognize these three feasts though some do so in altered form.  The reference section gives a reference to a document concerning the United Methodist Church celebration of All Saints Day both historically and in modern times.

On should also understand that the Catholic Church developed a strategic policy to replace pagan feasts with Christian feasts that occurred during the same time as pagan feasts so as to give the converted populations an alternative to the pagan festivals with which they were familiar.  According to some, the idea for Halloween and All Saints Day was to encourage converted persons to participate in the Christian Celebrations instead of the pagan Celebration called  Samhains.  Of course, sinful humans then as well as now probably continued to incorporate pagan activities and symbols into the Christian Celebrations and/or continued to participate in the pagan celebration.  The Letter from Pope Gregory to Mellitus listed in the reference section discuss this strategy.

The wisdom of having Christian feasts at the same time as pagan feasts may be questionable and unwise; but, it is not pagan and not unholy to hold such Christian feasts as long as only holy things are officially allowed as part of the feasts despite the fact that people unofficially do unrighteous things as part of the feasts.

So then for me, I have decided not to participate in any of these three feasts.  Now that does not mean that I might not at times be physically present where activity related to such feast occur.  But that happens even for doctrinally unsound activity not related to feasts.  In such circumstances my physical presence does not mean I concur with or participate in such activities for I try to hold and demonstrate my position on the matter regardless of what others are doing.  It is like Jesus who ate with “sinners’ yet did not sin.

My non-participation decision is not based on the feasts being done as replacement feasts for pagan feasts.  My decision is rooted in the doctrinal uncertainty as to whether all or some or any of the dead go to Heaven immediately or go to sleep awaiting Christ return.  And I certainly do not subscribe to the doctrine of purgatory.  So for me these three feasts are unwise and unnecessary.  I say unnecessary because in my home church during church anniversary each year we remember those members who have gone on having faith, hope, and love they are with the Lord Jesus in eternal peace having eternal life regardless of the logistics of where they physically are.   I know the scriptures say to be absent from the body is to be with the Lord.  Yet, it also speaks of us being asleep in the grave.  So the timing of it all is not conclusively specified in scripture as I understand it.

Halloween gets its name from the hallowed celebration intended to be held in the evening of October 31st.

Problems occur when the manner of such celebrations involves activities that are inconsistent with biblical holiness (hallowed).  Problems also occur when the secular world had or have celebrations at the same time as Christian celebrations.  Problems further occur when Christians incorporate secular activities that are inconsistent with biblical admonitions.  For example, dressing up as a witch or demon and presenting oneself at someone’s door for candy gives honor to the concept of a witch and a demon respectively.  But the Bible clearly says witches and demons are evil; therefore, Christians should not participate in any specific activity that honors them.  So then if one does participate in Halloween using a costume then the costume should not reflect anything that is evil. This principle of course extends to other activities.

It is clear that in America, Halloween has become extensively commercialized.  Also, humans for whatever reason have come to incorporate a great deal of clearly unbiblical activity.  Some churches have chosen to do nothing on these days.  Others hold special worship services and/or fall festivals/carnivals as alternatives to secular Halloween activities during this time.  The idea is to counter the influence of secular Halloween activities on adults and especially children.  It then becomes the responsibility of the faithful courageous Christian family to come and bring their children to the church Halloween (Hallowed/Holy Evening) rather than participate in secular Halloween activities.

Although, I have chosen not to participate in Halloween, I hold that  Christians should not avoid Halloween celebration based on the fact that  humans have corrupted the idea of such a celebration? For it that was a reason then one should ask the question should Christians avoid celebrating Christmas because humans have in some cases commercialized it and in some cases employ unbiblical activities and symbols? Of course not; Christians should still celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ which is what Christmas is all about. We as Christians certainly should not give the non-Christians power to determine our celebrations.

At home, the head of household is to determine whether a celebration occurs and the manner of that celebration. At church, the head of the local church and/or its “board” or “leadership council” according to the church’s standard procedure is to determine whether a celebration occurs and the manner of that celebration. Likewise, at school, the head of the school and/or school board is to determine whether a celebration occurs and the manner of the celebration. In all cases, participants in any such celebrations are to ensure all activities are consistent with biblical principles. Of course, the head of the church and the church in general are to preach and teach the whole counsel of God so all will know what is consistent with biblical principles at home, at church, at school, and in society in general.

We as Christians should always be mindful that the Bible exhorts us to not be of the world though we be in the world (John 17:14-15; 1 John 2:15-17,21).

For more info on All Saints and All Souls Days see my article entitled All Saints and All Souls Days.


Liturgical Year : October : History of All Hallows’ Eve | Catholic Culture

Halloween: Its Origins and Celebration | EWTN

Pope Gregory Letter to Mellitus on Conversion of Pagans and Their Temples

Which saints are honored on All Saints Day? (aleteia.org)

What Does the Catholic Church Teach About Purgatory? | Catholic Answers Tract

All Saints Day: A holy day John Wesley loved (umc.org)

For fall festival or carnival alternatives to Halloween ideas click here.
For fall festival or carnival alternatives to Halloween ideas click here.
Other Christian Celebrations

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